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Defining Fitness through Quality of Life – or Better, the Other way Around

I’ve heard and read a lot of stupid stuff over the years but my new doctor laid one on me that I hadn’t heard before – that the health risks outweigh the benefits of extreme athletics.  A friend of mine doubled down on that in a comment by sharing that she’d heard that not only do the risks outweigh the benefits, there are no benefits to exercising the way I choose to.

“Incredulous” is the best word that fits, for me.  Maybe “nuts” would be for anyone who actually believes as some doctors do. 

I am slim enough to be able to complain about five extra pounds, and actually mean it.  I am fit enough to keep up with my kids and teach them sports by doing, not by trying to explain from the sideline.  I have a zest for life that the vast majority of the world would be jealous of…. because I get to play for an hour a day and a few more on the weekends.

I ride with my wife, spending hours on the road together throughout the week.  The fun we have cycling together passes on through every moment we spend together.  We laugh together like we used to when we were just kids dating.  I no longer seek an escape from life through drugs or alcohol, I have a Twelve Step Program that I work diligently, and my bikes.  Either one alone leaves something to be desired.  Together, I feel like I’ve won the lotto.  Every day I wake up.

No benefit indeed.

Life is short, bikes are cool, and cycling is fun – and anyone who would put out the garbage that there is no benefit to cycling ten or twelve hours a week, when done wisely, is a quack.  Better, with a straight face, look at some poor, obese person who’s body is shutting down due to complications from diabetes, heart disease, liver disease and poor circulation then tell me there’s no benefit to riding a bike twelve hours a week.  How about someone who can’t leave their house because they’re too fat?  Someone who can’t even get out of bed?

The notion there is no benefit to a good bike ride is simply freaking nuts.  The idea that the risks outweigh the benefits is right behind it.

I wonder if the issue here isn’t about the definition of extreme, though.  While many could view what I do as extreme, mainly by duration of a weekend ride or perhaps by speed (with a fair bit of ignorance, I might add – I may be fast against the average Joe, but I am not fast against real speed), I find it hard to classify me as “extreme”.  Dedicated?  Absolutely, but extreme? Hardly.

The real issue here is laziness.  Labeling a fit cyclist or runner as “extreme” is lazy.  It’s measuring a fit person against a horrendously unfit populous to come up with an average that unfairly slants against a fit person.  Any doctor who would stoop to such a label for a fit person in their late 40’s who is so healthy they don’t take one prescriptive medication to correct a lack of fitness, is off (even if I would view the label as congratulatory anyway).

Life is about quality, and while I would definitely like some longevity, I wouldn’t trade my the happiness for an extra ten years on the back of 85, 90 or 100.

Now, if you would excuse me, I have a hundred miles to ride.  Chuckle.

Extreme Athletics: How Much Fitness is too Much? (And other Fun Questions)

This post is about my experience, strength and hope.  My results may differ from yours.

I rode my bicycle more than 8,500 miles last year.  The year before was 7,500.  The year before was 6,000.  The two years before that topped 5,500.  Add my miles up over the last six years and I’m well into my second time around the world (38,000 miles and change).  I ride an average of better than six days a week, but I never considered what I do “extreme”.  Intense, maybe, but not extreme.  Extreme was for those crazy people who are running marathons through the desert, or who take a couple of weeks to cycle across the US…  Not me.

The last time I sat in a doctor’s office (something like 3 or four years ago), after having a full blood workup, my doctor said, “Whatever it is you’re doing, keep doing it”.  Cholesterol, blood sugar, my “inflammation” numbers… by every measure I was extremely healthy.  In that case, extreme was good.

Going back three doctors and a decade there has been concern over my EKG readings though.  The first cause for concern was the “spike”.  My “spike” is big.  Really big.  The spike led to an ultrasound of my heart and an “all clear”.  I even called my doctor back to make sure I’d heard right in his office, that I was clear to continue exercising as I had been.  The worry was that my heart was enlarged.  While it is a little bigger than normal, it was discovered that it’s not really that big, it’s just strong.

Over the ensuing years I cut days off the bike to a point where I’ll now go for a month or two without taking a day off.  I simply substitute easy days for taking a day off (three easy days a week).  That’s not “extreme”, right?

Well, maybe not.  It’s the duration.

According to my new doctor, who I know personally and have for years, and whom I trust to look out for me, there’s a new understanding that’s come about over the last three to five years about what happens after that spike in the EKG that I mentioned earlier.  I can’t remember all of the jargon, but there’s a drop after the spike (which is normal) but there’s a small rise after that drop followed by another small drop that shouldn’t be there.  It was once thought that the small rise was benign.  Sadly for me, “once” is a very big word in that last sentence.

Unfortunately, because Government-down Obamacare sucks, I can’t be referred to a cardiologist to have my ticker checked out because I’m too healthy.  While my EKG shows signs for concern, I’m not exhibiting any negative symptoms or problems related to that little rise….  On the other hand and thankfully, Democrats didn’t go full stupid for a Canadian-style socialized scheme so I can still pay for the consult and new ultrasound with a cardiologist out of my pocket.  In the next few weeks I’ll be going to see a cardiologist about how to make my ticker keep up with the rest of me.  Where this gets really fun, if there is something wrong with my pump, we’ll catch it early enough that the available treatment options will work excellently because I’m so damned healthy.

Anyway, back to the main topic:  How much fitness is “extreme”?  I don’t freaking know.  I always figured I was a little above average and maybe slightly nutty, but extreme?  We’re not even that fast, above average, yes, but I know a whole class of guys who ride a lot faster than my friends and I do… Then my buddy Mike pointed out over the phone yesterday, “Yeah, but it’s not about the speed.  We’re out there doing a hundred miles in five hours.”  And that’s precisely when I saw me as I am.  If the average person puts in 30-45 minutes a day, five days a week… measured against that…  Their week is my Saturday.  Or Sunday.  In those terms, I may not be hardcore, like someone who races, but “extreme” is fair.

Finally, and to wrap this up with a neat little bow, I still have a lot to learn about what is going on with me, whether it’s just genetics that is messing with me or whether I even have a problem to begin with.  There is one thing that keeps ringing in my melon, what my doctor said about how much I choose to exercise or ride my bikes…  Once you go from a normal amount of exercise to the extreme, the risks not only outweigh the benefits, there are no additional benefits.

That one hurts, and it fits me perfectly.

So, what’s next for me?  Well, it’ll be that appointment with a cardiologist and I’ll wait for his recommendations – and I’ll follow them.  If that means slowing down or limiting the length of time I’m on the bike, I’ll do whatever I have to for longevity.  I like riding fast.  I like being in the upper crust of endurance cyclists.  I like long rides with my wife and friends.  I also believe in one important axiom a friend of mine passed on to me:  “It’s real easy to talk tough about death, until the bus shows up for you.”

 

Just what the World Needs, another Snowflake. A Different Theme on a New Meme; The Carleton University Scale Dust up.

Trigger (heh) warning:  If you still wear diapers or pull-ups and are easily triggered to melt, this post is likely not for you.  You have been trigger (heh) warned.

I originally thought the story was a fake, it’s just too perfect.  University Athletics management removes a weight scale from the gym and leaves a sign:

A sign where the scale used to be stated it was removed to encourage people to focus on other ways of measuring their health beyond just their weight.

The sign stated the decision to remove the scale is “in keeping with current fitness and social trends.”

Social trends?  In a gym?  Fitness trends?  Which trends would they be?  Specifically.

Now, the meme diverges from there and suggests that the scale was removed at the request of one snowflake who was “triggered” by seeing the scale and asked that it be removed.  If that’s the case, I shudder for the future and am now considering working till I’m 80 so I don’t have to rely on that dipshit to provide for my health care and partial retirement.  Hey, only 33 more years to go.

Whatever the case, that part really didn’t “technically” make the original story.  The original story is way more fun to play with, from the snowflake perspective, anyway.

The sign left in place of the scale encouraged people to “focus on other ways of measuring their health beyond just their weight”.  Why is management suggesting those who use a scale are only using the scale to measure “health”?  You don’t use a scale to measure health.  A scale measures weight – and that is the only thing it measures – and nothing does that better.

It’s very simple really, a scale is a tool used to let one know if one is consuming too much food.  If one does, the number goes up.  If one doesn’t, guess what!  YES!  The number goes down.  If we are lifting weights in conjunction with cardio, that number stays there for a bit while the body trades fat for muscle.  Then it drops.  Rocket science this is not.

Let’s move on, now that I’m in captain obvious mode.

Bruce Marshall, manager of health and wellness at Athletics, said focusing only on weight can have a negative impact.

Bruce Marshall must not be doing his job as the manager of health and wellness if his people are teaching those who use his gym to only focus on weight.  I wonder why they wouldn’t teach balance like everyone else, but weight plays a part in that balance.

We don’t believe being fixated on weight has any positive effect on your health and well-being,” Marshall said in an email. “The body is an amazing machine and even when we are dieting and training it will often find a homeostasis at a certain weight.”

Marshall added it can take a long time to see a change in weight.

It takes weeks, even months to make a permanent change in your weight. So why obsess about it?” he said. “Why not look at other indicators?”

So anyone who weighs themselves once a week, or even once a day, is fixated on weight now, according to Bruce Almighty?

A great thinker once said he’d rather be governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than the faculties at Harvard and MIT.  Bruce is why.  If he has people using his gym who are fixated on weight, why does he have to remove the scale and wreck it for everyone, why can’t he do his job and teach those few who do fixate on weight how to moderate?  To postulate that anyone who uses a scale is fixated on weight is silly and lazy.

The Great and Powerful Bruce then makes the next natural leap from fixation to obsession.  It just keeps getting better!

The last line is the best, “Why not look at other indicators?”

Hey, Mr. Wonderful, why not use all the tools in the toolbox?  Why fight with one hand tied behind your nuts (or vajay-jay)?

[It’s a funny visual though, ain’t it?]

Now here’s where we get to drop the Brucemeister into the dumpster.  Watch this…

According to Marshall, other indicators to look at include girth measurements, which can change “dramatically,” without much of a weight change. This involves measuring the circumference of areas such as the torso, legs, and arms to record progress.

He added people can also set goals in terms of cardiovascular fitness and overall strength, instead of only focusing on the number on the scale.

So, Mr. Fantastic wants us to take girth measurements?  Being fixated on the scale is bad but being fixated on girth is good, yes?  How about obsessed?  I wonder if Mr. Fabulous knows that being obsessed with girth is unhealthy!?  While we’re at it, what are the right girth measurements?  Please, Oh Wise One, bestow on us the proper girth measurements so we may obsess on them.  And oh, goody, we can “set goals in terms of cardiovascular fitness and overall strength” instead of relying on a number on a scale.  This is madness.  It’s such an easy concept but the waters must be muddied so that only a doctor can properly assess whether or not one’s ass is too big.

Here’s the problem:  I picked this article apart while watching Star Wars.  It was easy because Bruce has himself in the middle of his own one-man circular firing squad.  See, I don’t think he actually believes that gobbledygook he was spewing about scales.  His arguments were too simple to turn around and use against him because they’re based in rainbows, unicorns and hope.

Come to think of it, I’d bet the mirrors are next.   They are good as gone and I can’t wait to rip apart the note The Brucinator leaves in place of those.

Where this story really went off the rails was when a student chimed in on Facebook with:

“Scales are very triggering,” she said. “I think people are being insensitive because they simply don’t understand. They think eating disorders are a choice when they are actually a serious illness.”

One can only imagine how I, an ex-drunk, managed to recover from alcoholism.  Alcohol is everywhere.  We learn to disregard the trigger, I don’t expect the world to stop drinking because I’m an ex-drunk.  It takes a special kind of nincompoop to suggest a scale is a trigger that should be banished for those few with eating disorders.

I will put this as simply as I can, from a mountain of experience; If I am “triggered”, I am the problem, not the inanimate object that “triggered” me.  I need to be fixed.  Period.  [PS.  Those aren’t “scare” quotes.  They’re “stupid” quotes.]

One last tidbit from The Washington Democrat… err, Post:

 

Marshall told CBC, in response to the criticism the school has received, “We will weigh the pros and cons and may reconsider our decision.”

We can only hope that he doesn’t obsess over weighing those pros and cons on a scale.

I couldn’t resist.

This post was a result of reading my friend, Gail’s most excellent post on the subject.  I just wanted to take it in a different direction.

 

I Performed an Exorcism on Exercise Myths… and it WORKED!  Five, almost Six Years Ago now…

I wrote a post in my sixth day of writing this blog and it was a doozy.  Sadly, nobody saw it because nobody in the community knew me.  Back then, I maybe had six or eight people who read my blog.

Humorously, I’d forgotten I wrote the post myself…  Then Shay-lon stumbled on it and left me one long, well reasoned, and passionate comment on the post.  In that comment she suggested I reblog it to get it out there…

The post, before you read it, is a bulldozer for myths about exercise.  Please check it out:

Exorcising the Myths of Exercise… – http://wp.me/p248iZ-1m

……

1.  Fit people are “lucky” to be that way.

The reality is, for men, after attaining 30 years of age (maybe 33 on the late end), there is no such thing as luck except in rare instances  where good genes help.…..

2.  Running is bad for the knees and joints.

No it isn’t.  And I’ve used that one myself….

3.  Low impact exercise is better than running or “high” impact exercise.

That isn’t true either, though I’ve used that one too….

 

The Pain and Suffering that is Fat; A Story of a Soon to be Smaller Family

The names are changed to protect my ass.  Or the innocent.  Either works.

Paula and Jerry are relatives of mine.  Not close, but close enough, and they are fat.  Not “overweight” fat, they’re morbidly obese fat.  There isn’t much pretty about them.  They’re retired, lazy, and their health is shot.  She looks like death warmed over and has what looks like permanent bruises running the length of her legs and all the way around them…  Her skin is gray, otherwise, and she has two permanent black eyes… I imagine she won’t have the legs for much longer.  He’s a lot healthier, looking at him, but he’s still winded walking from his truck to the front door.  The door is twenty feet away.  Twenty feet.

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The machine in this photo RUNS on fat, not ironically.  Being fat however, one will eventually need the sign behind me….

Listening to them, you’d think they were dealt a crappy hand in life, rather than they did that to themselves.  Oh, they’d start walking if it just wasn’t so tiring or hurt so much.  It’s like watching the death spiral unfold before my eyes.  Sad doesn’t do it justice.  Nor does stupid.  It’s a combination of the two, though there may be some room for ignorant too.

Have you ever noticed how often, with people like this, that it’s always some distant thing that’s putting off the exercise and eating right?

“Oh, if my doctor could just get my medication right, I wouldn’t be retaining so much water”.

You drank a hot tub?

Or, “When my kids get out of college, I’ll be able to devote some time to walking daily.  Please pass the donuts”.  The kids are twelve and fifteen.

I’ll tell you what, you do five laps around the house and I’ll pass you the spinach.

The cause of my consternation is within me though, too.  I lack tact in the face of bullshit.  See, I truly believe the excuses demand an equally repugnant answer and I’ve let my mouth cause damage, the examples above illustrate this.  I’ve actually said, to complete strangers lobbing excuses about their weight, “You don’t actually expect me to believe that, do you?”

It’s easy for you

It is easy for me.  Not because I have good genes, I don’t.  I have shit genes that predispose me to a gut, alcoholism and dementia (though they do say the latter skips a generation).  The reason it’s easy for me is that I’ve learned to love the work of exercise.  I love cycling.  I just started cycling five years ago though.  Before that it was running, and I most definitely didn’t love running.  I liked it okay, but there’s a lot of space between that and love.  I did love the work though.  I loved getting sweaty on the hot days and ice on my eyelashes on the cold days.  Before that it was rollerblading, and I definitely loved that…  I was almost as fast on a pair of rollerblades as I am on a bike.

I am not fit by accident.  I am not thin due to luck or genetics.  I am not healthy because the doctor got my meds right – I don’t take any.  While I have witnessed medications being crossed up, and in turn wreaking havoc over friends’ health, the point is to do everything possible to avoid the need for them in the first place.

The pain of it all

It won’t always hurt.  The exercise.  It will for a while, of course.  I didn’t throw on a pair of rollerblades and zoom around the eight mile loop in 24 minutes on my first day.  I didn’t run a 10k my first time out running.  I didn’t hop onto a bike and top 20 mph over 20 miles my first time out.

That first time rollerblading hurt like hell.  Every muscle in my legs burned!  Same for running… a mile and a half at 9-1/2 minute miles and I thought I was gonna die.  Cycling?  And I was already a runner when I bought my first mountain bike?  Four miles at 15 mph, and I was cooked.  Just four miles and I was already FIT!

I stuck with it though.  That pain not only went away, cycling became my way to fight pain in the first place.  My excuse, back when I was chubby, was back pain.  Two years into running and my back pain wasn’t gone, but it was a lot more manageable.  Two years into cycling, at 43 years-old, and it was gone.

I learned years ago, after just one week’s vacation, that a sedentary life is vastly more painful than an active life.  Sitting still takes a toll on a person.  Follow that up with a diet of donuts and hamburgers and you may as well put a fork in you, because you’re done.

“Fat”, for calling it what it is, is unnecessary.  For most, it’s a choice.  An option.  The diseases that come with it are almost entirely preventable.  I faced a choice, after 32 years of being thin, lean and trim, when I realized I was well on my way to getting fat (I gained 45 pounds over the course of a couple of years):  Either I was going to be lazy and get fat or I was going to do something about it.  I chose the latter and thus far, the rest is history.

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Uh, yeah… We’re 75 miles into that day.  People who are in a ton of pain do not smile like that…  Happy people smile like that.

It’s only a matter of time…

My aunt died of morbid obesity – that was actually on the death certificate as a cause of death.  I was not about to follow in her footsteps.  I can either get busy being healthy or get busy dying.  Those relatives I spoke of earlier are going to die a very nasty death, and soon.  They will lose limbs to diabetes, and they will be in pain until their suffering is ended and their bodies finally give out.

For a donut, a bag of chips, and some soda and because the couch is easier than a crankset.

That is my definition of misery, and I want no part of it.  Of course, I should also state that my initial decision was to go right ahead and get fat.  It lasted less than 24 hours, but that was my first choice.

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UPDATE:  Please be sure to scroll down to the comments section and check out Brent’s comment.  Wow.

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane!  Nope. It’s SuperSagan!

I found this capture of a tweet over at Velovoices:

Of course, and I commented the same, I’m sick enough that my first thought was, “Dude, I gotta learn to do that!  It’d be awesome to haul that out at DALMAC and fly by the guys!”

That thought was, obviously followed by, “You’re too old for that $#!+.”

Still, how cool would that be?…

Anyway, it cannot be denied: Peter Sagan is awesome, and fantastic for cycling.  While I’m definitely stoked about Cav’s return to awesomeness, I’ve been on the edge of my couch every evening hoping Sagan keeps (or “takes back” as the case has been) the green jersey.  

Cycling with Allergies: I Feel Good Enough to Not Let How Bad I Feel Keep Me from Riding.

I went for a ride yesterday afternoon.  I felt like crap.  Happens every year around this time.  I get back from a ride and my nose is running and my eyes itch so bad I actually think about scratching them.  With a fork.

Two days later, I swear to God, I managed to catch a cold too.  I didn’t, actually, it just feels like it.  I think.

I went for a ride anyway, when I got home.  I felt good enough to not care how bad I felt.

It started out easy enough.  I thought to myself, “Dude (yes, I have a melon committee member who refers to me as “dude”), who cares about speed?  You feel like you got run over by a small bear.  I was at 16 mph, into a cross headwind.  Then 17.  Man, that wind was strong.  18.  “Okay, maybe keep it at 17.  Just take it easy, dude.”  19.  “Okay, 18.  Down in the drops, yeah, that’s the ticket.”

Then I turned west.  “Crap, there’s the wind.”  17… 18…  “Geez, just quit looking at the stupid computer.”

“Dude, stop looking at the computer.”

Detour.  Train tracks are being fixed.  Alternate route acquired.  Back into the wind. Damned wind.

Fast forward three miles and I’m heading west with a tailwind. Now it’s fun. 21. Uphill. Downhill, red light. Stop and start again. 24… 25… 26.

Fast forward to the the last mile of my one our ride and I’m feeling a lot better. I can finally feel the funk burning off.

I pull into the driveway with a little more than 17 miles, expecting to see 1:01-ish. 55:56. Cool. A little faster than expected.

I hate allergy season. Still, it could be worse. I can remember a time when I wasn’t so active and hay fever season would hit me like a train.

UPDATE: I wrote this post yesterday. I woke up this morning, finally feeling much better. I can actually breathe without having to keep my mouth open. Finally!